Getting Your Priorities Right

4 May, 2017

Doing a job right the first time means that you’ll only have to do it once. So, if you’re an engineer designing a product, understanding your priorities and getting your processes in order early could mean avoiding setbacks and redesigns, saving you time and money.

In our latest research-focused report, The Heat is On, we look at what engineers are prioritizing when it comes to electronics design, asking what drives the design process and what today’s engineers see as either essential or simply a ‘nice-to-have’.

the heat is on 1Based on the Electronics Weekly engineering database, through an independent study of over 350 professional electronics engineers

This research, shows that not only does thermal management rank the as lowest priority, but also that as many as 14% of design engineers believe that thermal considerations do not matter when planning their designs.

Instead, product reliability and compliance with industry standards are ranked as the top two concerns when designing electronics. Most engineers feel that the need to produce innovative, compliant and – most importantly - reliable products is a significantly higher priority than cutting back on costs, reducing time to market, or optimising the thermal design of their devices.

While it is true that compliance and reliability are essential in the design process, it’s clear that many engineers are still failing to properly understand the link between these priorities and the role of thermal management. Rather than sitting outside of such considerations, thermal management should be treated as a vital part of ensuring that a device is both compliant and reliable in the long term.

While it’s unlikely that thermal design issues will cause a device to burst into flames, failure to consider how changes in temperature could impact individual components throughout a device can lead to a wide variety of problems for designers and end users.

Poor thermal design can severely damage a devices’ reliability, limit its lifespan and weakening a brand’s reputation in the eyes of customers. For many end-consumers, devices that are hot-to-the-touch are often associated with poor design and a lack of reliability, changing the perception of a product in the eyes of the customer.

More immediately for designers though, thermal issues are a common cause of costly complications late in the design process – forcing engineers to go “back to the drawing board”. Indeed, our research has also shown that 99.5% of engineers have had a product derailed by late stage complications with one in five also specifically citing thermal issues as the cause of their delays.

Given that many of these complications will not emerge until further down the line, it’s perhaps easy to understand why many design engineers deemphasise the importance of thermal management. However, by failing to address these issues early on in the design process, engineers are simply setting themselves up for a fall in the long term. As such, designers must consider thermal issues as early on in the design process as early as possible to ensure a product is right the first time round. Pre-empting issues using thermal simulation tools can help make products more reliable, easier for consumers to use, reduce energy and save on costs.

It’s time to start thinking about thermal management as an extension of product reliability and good electronics design. So, to avoid investing wasting time, energy and money in the design process, make sure you consider thermal as an important factor in your list of priorities. As they say, if something is important, you’ll find a way, if it isn’t, you’ll find an excuse. 

Download the full report here